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Hot dog roast fundraisers bring communities together

BUFFALO — The following guest column was submitted by Erie County Legislator John Mills.

During the past six years, I have fired up the Sahlen’s grill 38 times at libraries throughout my district and sold thousands of hot dogs, to support the libraries’ ongoing efforts to provide quality programming and materials.

With the help of generous supporters and volunteers, I have proudly donated more than $30,000 to these library branches. From supporting the purchase of children’s materials to helping to build a new community room, these funds have a beneficial impact on each library.

When I held my first fundraiser in 2007, I raised a few hundred dollars. It was a good event, but I knew we could do better, and every year since, we have. The directors and library board members, along with the towns and villages, lend their support, and now the top fundraisers are bringing in more than $1,000 in just a few hours. That is a lot of hot dogs and Italian sausages, but more than that, it is a lot of patrons.

The libraries will not thrive without the support of the community. That is why I am always happy to see lines form; we try to serve everyone as quickly as possible, but each person buying a hot dog represents why I hold these roasts and support the libraries.

My unofficial motto has become, “Where else can you feed a family of six for $6?” The event also asks the question, “Where else can you buy a hot dog from an elected official and put him on the hot seat?”

Along with a food order, I often get questions about park maintenance, my thoughts of big issues such as the budget or Buffalo Bills, the future of our libraries and roads and bridges. I look forward to having these one-on-one discussions and hearing from residents who have a question or concern.

Because my district consists of more than 42 percent of the county-owned and -maintained roadways, I often receive questions about the roads. A lot of time is dedicated to visiting roads and bridges and meeting with residents and department of public works’ employees to survey problems.

All of these questions will be considered next month, when the Erie County Legislature will get its first look at the county executive’s first-ever budget. The past few years, through efforts of the former county executive and members of the legislature, we retired long-term debt, reduced the county work force and held the line on spending. I would like to see the county executive continue the county on its current path and, in doing so, not increase taxes or spending.

To best serve all the residents in the 15 municipalities in my district, I have also attended board meetings throughout the year and, having completed one cycle, will be starting again in a few weeks. While modern technology makes phone calls and emails the easiest way to communicate, there is no comparison to face-to-face dialogue, especially when someone is frustrated or concerned.

I understand that weeknight board meetings or time in the middle of a library fundraiser are not always convenient, so I am always available to meet at a time and place that is convenient for you.

Please contact my office at 858-8850 or email john.mills@erie.gov to schedule a meeting.
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